Friday, October 23, 2009

Responding to Myths About Christian Education

Who is wise and understanding among you?
Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done
in the humility that comes from wisdom.- James 3:13
Are common misconceptions about Christian schools stopping you from considering a Christian education for your children? Let’s take a look at some myths—and the associated realities.

Myth: Christian education is appropriate if the goal is for your child to go to a Bible college, but not to a secular university.

Response: According to the Association of Christian Schools International, the majority of graduates of Christian high schools go on to secular universities.

Students and their families may lean toward a Bible college or secular university for a variety of reasons, including career goals; spiritual and cultural concerns; the personality, interests, and aptitudes of the individual student; and many other factors. However, if the goal is to equip a student to pursue either path, it’s important to look at such issues as accreditation when choosing a Christian school.

Christian School of York, for example, has dual accreditation from the Association of Christian Schools International and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, the latter of which is the same organization that accredits public schools in the region. The college preparatory program at CSY, moreover, is designed to match or exceed those of the best public school systems and private schools. As such, our graduates have gone on to a variety of higher education settings ranging from Bible colleges to Ivy League universities.

Myth: Christian education shelters students too much from the world.

Response: Take the phrase “too much” out of this myth, and it’s no longer a myth. Christian schools do help shelter students from a variety of negative influences—spiritual, cultural, and otherwise. And that is a good thing, particularly in the earliest years of a child’s education, when they are at their most vulnerable and impressionable. Jesus said in Mark 10:15 that we must “receive the Kingdom of God like a little child.” Yet the pace at which our culture pushes children away from the state of innocence of early childhood seems to accelerate constantly, making it that much more difficult to approach the Lord from a place of childlike innocence as older children and adults. So the more we can shelter our children from these influences, the better.

Students in the upper grades are challenged to develop a biblical worldview of their own. There is no better environment in which to do that than within the context of a Christian school solidly founded on God’s word working in conjunction with the local church and family. The goal at CSY is that a graduate knows what he/she believes and can defend it based on God’s word. By equipping students with critical thinking skills at all levels in a solid Bible based environment, students are ready for the harshest of secular encounters.

We must remember that the world is not as God intended. He created a perfect environment for Adam and Eve in which to flourish. Sin and evil entered when they chose to disobey. God’s intent was for them to enjoy the protection of His presence in that environment.

Myth: Because they have been sheltered, graduates of Christian schools may be more vulnerable to having a crisis of faith in early adulthood, once they get out on their own, either at secular colleges or when they begin their working lives.

Response: A period of doubting, questioning, and finding oneself is an almost inevitable a part of the young adult experience, and Christians are no exception. God clearly wants His people to be “strong, firm, and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). But in our fallen state and imperfect world, we all have times when we stumble, and young adulthood is one of the periods when we are most prone to do so. While God does not condone our stumbling, He uses those times to help us grow and mature in Christ, “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4). And those who have gained a firm foundation for their faith, such as the foundation that can be gained with the help of a Christian education, are likely to not lapse as far--and they’re likely to recover their faith more quickly. We don’t send children out to the mission field to fend for their own. When is the last time we sent an 18 year old to another country as an ambassador or diplomat representing our country?

Myth: Christian education costs too much--just think how much I could save for my children’s college education if I sent them to the public schools instead!

Response: Let’s face it: running a quality Christian school—paying excellent teachers, building and maintaining facilities, providing up-to-date instructional materials, and all the expenses associated with running any educational institution, public or private—is not an inexpensive proposition. So the cost of tuition can, in turn, be a significant sacrifice for families. But what price should we put on the ability to protect our children from the negative influences of secular culture, and to provide a spiritually guided context in which they can learn the skills they need to succeed in the world? Moreover, a look at some of the components of today’s family budgets suggests that certain adjustments, sacrifices, and economies can be made to help offset the cost of tuition:

Looking at these figures and thinking further about other budget components they bring to mind, one can see that reducing or eliminating certain expenses can go a long way toward covering the cost of tuition. It may be simply a matter of setting priorities and making some well-chosen sacrifices. Further, these figures suggest that paying Christian school tuition need not be mutually exclusive with a college funding plan. And don’t overlook the potential contribution of financial aid programs available at many Christian schools, including CSY, which can help make tuition affordable to families from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.

Myth: Due to their stance on issues like evolution, Christian schools aren’t effective in preparing students for science and technology fields.

Response: The mind of God is infinite. No matter how diligently we study His creation through the sciences, we ultimately realize that “these are but the outer fringe of his works” (Job 26:14).

Christian schools rightly take issue with scientific dogma on such issues as the origin of the universe and of man and, especially, with the implication that these theories are not compatible with a theistic point of view.

But the operational study of fields such as chemistry, biology, and physics is not at all incompatible with our faith. From the periodic table of the elements to the elegantly simple “four-word language” (adenine, thymine, guanine, cytosine) of recombinant DNA that now appears to encode all the complexity of the life we see around us, the structure and workings of the creation are part of God’s general revelation of Himself to mankind: “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Roman’s 1:20).

Particularly in schools such as CSY that are dually accredited by both Christian and secular organizations, the standard of science education can match or exceed that of the best public and private schools. Students leave such programs well prepared for higher education in science and technology, and have the added benefit of a spiritual context to their education that enables them to reconcile science and faith.

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